It's easy to get dirt, sweat or grime on your wood as you carve - and it will look awful, especially dirt on a lighter wood. A grubby carving is not the same as the patination of age, or handling after the piece is finished.
The only way to remove this sort of ingrained dirt is by re-carving the whole surface, so the answer is: keep your carvings clean in the first place!
Correction: In the video I call the bottle of isopropanol, 'ethanol' (surgical spirits), which is incorrect. Isopropyl alcohol (isopropanol) and ethyl alcohol (ethanol) are not the same thing and isoproynol in not used as a surgial alcohol. I meant to show 2 bottles, one of each, because both these alcohols will do the same cleaning job here. The isopropanol I bought from a cleaning supplies, the ethanol from a pharmacy.
Download: Here are some ideas to stop 'down and dirty' carving.
I've made a summary for you to print off and hang above your bench as a reminder. If you have any more suggestions let me know and I'll update it.
| 15 January 2021 10:33
Joseph - I believe that's the same as 'surgical spirits' but, whatever, just do a little test as in the picture above and it'll soon be apparent.
Honestly though, the very best thing is to work hard at keeping our carvings clean in the first place!
| 14 January 2021 04:31
Denatured alcohol? Can I use that as well?
| 17 January 2019 14:31
Richard - I've never cleaned my benchstrop yet, after 40 odd years! Because you are dragging the edge of the tool and not bumping or cutting into any extraneous particles, it makes not difference; the bits just get smoothed into the strop.
I do, however, keep my strop covered (with a flap fixed at the top edge that I just flip over). This stops wood chips and general dirt getting into it when not in use, which would make the strop surface bumpy. Indeed, if you find any particles doing that, just pick them out.
| 16 January 2019 18:00
Hi Chris and Carrie
Thanks again for this. Some really useful tips. I have been cleaning my bench stones with honing oil mixed with a little turpentine which is de clogging them great.
My question is regarding bench strops which must be picking up micro bits of metal, oil etc. Do you need to clean them and if so what do you recommend? Richard
| 27 December 2018 10:05
Albert - Sorry, I have no idea; I've never done that.
Best thing is to dirty up a piece of wood, give it a go and let us know how you get on!
| 26 December 2018 17:55
Is water and detergent good to clean finished carving? As you stated, water will raise the grain but what about the detergent? Al
| 23 December 2018 10:10
Guy - You are quite right - good call! I'd just bought that isopropanol as an alternative to the ethanol (surgical spirits), which I have shown before on the website, and meant to show both. I skipped a beat there and didn't notice. I'll make a note below the video.
Thanks for the feedback - we really appreciate this sort of sharp-eyed critique.
| 20 December 2018 15:48
thank you very much for this intersting video.
Being a chemist, I have a remark: you recommand to use ethanol (which is indeed used in surgery) and you show isopropanol which is not the same and cannot be used for surgery or for drinking...
All the best